10 Tips on Making Concert Venues Accessible for Blind and Visually Impaired People

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I’m rather excited about today’s post, it is a collaboration with RightHear. RightHear is an accessibility solution for blind and visually impaired people, enabling them to be as independent as possible.

 

I am a huge concert lover (and a bit of a fangirl) so when Right Hear asked me to collaborate with them on a post on ways that concert venues can be made accessible for blind and visually impaired people I wanted to get involved straight away! Concert venues can often present accessibility issues and barriers for disabled people and I thought that listing some of the tips of how they can be made accessible may raise awareness of this.

So, without further ado, here are 10 tips on making concert venues accessible for blind and visually impaired people or those with other disabilities.

  1. Provide access information

Information on accessibility of the venue should be on your website, making it easy for disabled people to access should they wish. This should also be easy to navigate to and not buried somewhere deep within your website. Disabled people often have to plan their visit in advance, so this is vital. This information may include: how to book accessible tickets, where disabled seating is located in the venue, contact details for the designated disabled access officer (if appropriate), location of disabled parking and how to book this, location of disabled toilets, details of assistance for people with guide dogs, wheelchairs, or other mobility aids and any other necessary information.

One other idea is to have a specific contact number for disabled customers, making it easier for them to call should they need to. This is also extremely handy when booking accessible tickets.

As I am blind myself, accessibility information is something that I will always look for on the website, even before booking tickets. I will often contact the venue beforehand to check the best way to book accessible tickets if it is not stated on the website, and see if they are willing to accommodate..

2. Have various ways of booking accessible tickets

Often, the only way of booking accessible tickets is over the phone. This may not be possible for some people, so have other ways of them being able to book them such as online or in person. Make sure that these ways are accessible, for example, having the booking office in an accessible place.

3. Train your staff

One of the most important aspects of making concert venues accessible is to train your staff; this may be in sighted guiding, communication strategies, disability, or visual awareness training, but it is important for them to have adequate training. It is very noticeable and easy, for disabled people to tell which staff have, and which staff have not had visual awareness training. Friendly, patient, understanding and helpful staff make the experience much more positive. It’s also important to allocate staff on events to assist disabled people to their seats, answer any questions and provide support if needed.

4. Ensure that staff are knowledgeable about the venue and the local area

Staff should be able to help disabled people with any queries that they may have about the venue, and also being able to answer any questions that they may have on the local area, such as getting to places, finding the train station, or ordering a taxi.

5. Consider orientation and mobility needs

Navigating an unknown venue can be extremely difficult for blind and visually impaired people. Offering assistance for visitors with a visual impairment is invaluable.

Also have braille and large print signs or maps, making it accessible for blind and visually impaired people to read and access. It is also important that this is in plain text (with no arrows or graphics), as it is easier for blind and visually impaired people to read. They should also be in the same places on doors, then they are easy to find, especially for people relying on braille. After all, independence is key.

6. Have space for disabled seating

This may seem obvious, but many venues do not cater for disabled people and do not have enough seating or wheelchair space. It’s important to have as less of obstruction as possible in venues, making it easier for disabled people to navigate, especially those in a wheelchair or blind and visually impaired people using a cane or guide dog. It is also important to have specific seating reserved for disabled people and their companion in a good viewing location. If it is an outdoor venue, then a viewing platform may be a good idea.

7. Have adequate lighting

This might not be possible during the concert, where flashing lights and contrast are more up to the artist than the venue, it certainly can be considered outside of where the actual music or performance is taking place. When planning lighting in your hallways or in the actual auditorium, consider keeping things on the brighter side so that visitors can navigate around the venue when they’re not at their seats. In addition to accessible lighting, it is also important to have coloured contrast railings, tactile markings on floors leading to stairs and also easy lift access for those with less vision or other mobility needs.

8. Provide large print, high-contrast, braille, electronic or audio formats of materials when possible

This includes menus, event programs, or any other literature you may have. Although putting literature into such formats may seem expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Even if it is, providing these materials is a long-term investment that will not only support customers who are blind or visually impaired, but may also be useful for customers with other disabilities or those that are elderly. Accessibility means equal opportunities for all, and almost always has benefits to your business.

9. Have specific, accessible features such as audio description or touch tours

Audio description is a narration/description of exactly what is going on. Audio description allows blind and visually impaired people to listen to a description through a set of headphones while still being engaged in the show or performance. This promotes accessibility, equality and independence as blind and visually impaired people know what is happening themselves, rather than relying on their companion to tell them. This may not be possible for all shows such as concerts, but it can be implemented for events such as theatre shows/performances or sporting events.

Touch tours are when a blind or visually impaired person gets to go onto the stage before a performance to get a feel for the environment and touch the props, costumes, set, and more. This really sets the scene for blind or visually impaired people and can give them a better understanding of the show. Like audio description, this may not be possible for all events, but where possible, this is a worthwhile consideration that also promotes equality and accessibility.

10. Speak to disabled visitors about their experience

Liaising with disabled people about their experience gives you detailed information on what you need to improve on, what works well and what doesn’t and gives you an insight into their experience. You can use this feedback for future improvements or developments. By gathering feedback from disabled visitors shows that you have a keen interest in making your venue accessible and it also shows you are willing to support disabled visitors to the best of your ability. You could do this by having a review section on your website, using social media or even a short, simple questionnaire.

 

Useful links

There are some very useful links that may be of interest: Attitude is Everything – improves Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music by working in partnership with audiences, artists, and the music industry. Festival Spirit – a charity which provides a safe and fun way of disabled people being able to access festivals. They provide “buddies” who are non-disabled volunteers who accompany disabled people at festivals. They also provide accessible accommodation. Euan’s Guide – disabled access reviews, by disabled people, for disabled people.

 

That concludes today’s post, those are just some of the tips that can be used in order to make concert venues accessible for blind and visually impaired people, or those with other disabilities.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and that it is of use to some of you! Feel free to share it with people that you think it may be of use to.

As always, thank you for reading.

Holly x

 

Disclaimer: although this post is a collaboration, all views are my own. I only work with brands and organisations that support my message and the aims of my blog.

Failings in Passenger Assistance

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

This post is part of mine and Elin’s #SeeingThroughSightLossSeries where we discuss everything relating to disability, visual impairment and also often our meet ups. Today’s post is going to be a bit of a mixed bag – I am going to discuss my own personal experiences and from this, I hope to raise awareness.

I try to be positive on my blog as I feel that it generally reflects the person I am, and I don’t sugar-coat anything that I write, therefore this post is no exception but I just want you to know that everything that I’m discussing is true and honest, not exaggerated, made up or fake. As I said, I try to be positive on my blog, but I do sometimes address the negative aspects of having a disability too and I think that’s important. Today I want to tell you about an experience that I have had recently, but one that’s reoccurred on several occasions and sadly, that’s one of the harsh realities of being blind or having a disability. What I’m talking about is passenger assistance on public transport, in this case, trains. For those of you that aren’t familiar with passenger assistance, it’s where a member of staff from a train station helps a disabled or elderly person IE people in wheelchairs, or those with a visual impairment like myself. For example, They can assist people on and off trains, take people to a meeting point to meet others, to a taxi or even a connecting train. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

That’s what I thought when I tried it for the first time. But this was soon the opposite – I was left on a train, had I not have been with my Dad who came with me whilst I was trying it for the first time, I’d have been left on a train to Southampton, over 100 miles away from my original destination. Scary thought, right? But this sort of thing happens too often. You can read about my first time trying passenger assistance here.

After that time, I thought that it would just be a mistake and wouldn’t happen to me again but that couldn’t have been further away from the truth, in the last 9 months the so called “passenger assistance” has failed me each time that I have required it.

I want to tell you about the most recent experience that I had. On Friday 28 April 2017, I was travelling to Manchester to meet my best friend Elin (My Blurred World) as we were going to see Shawn Mendes in concert and I was extremely excited! I pre-booked my hotel, train tickets and passenger assistance back in February so that it was all done, and I knew that I would hopefully get assistance. My Mum was travelling with me, as she was going out for a meal with Elin’s Mum whilst we were at the gig and as Manchester isn’t familiar to me and Elin, they were our eyes so to speak.

(photo of a train ticket)

You may be asking why I needed passenger assistance when my Mum was with me, I wanted to try it on this route as it’s one that I’ll hopefully be doing more often so wanted to try it whilst someone sighted was with me. So please do not tell me that I was abusing the system because I wasn’t, and I genuinely needed the experience for future trips.

I started my journey at York station where I went to the information desk, where I was met by an assistant a few minutes later. This part went well, the assistant helped me onto the train and assisted me in finding my seat; they did everything that they were supposed to do.

When I arrived at Manchester Victoria station, this is where the problems occurred. I was on an overcrowded train where people were stood up in the carriage, I appreciate that this was on the day of a rail strike so people were probably using alternative trains but as a blind person, it made it practically impossible for me to get through these people using my long cane. If my Mum hadn’t have been with me, it would have been extremely difficult for me to carry my luggage and navigate through an overcrowded carriage with my cane. We waited a couple of minutes to see whether a member of staff was going to come onto the train to assist me, as time quickly ticked by, we  soon realised that they hadn’t turned up yet again. We got off the train as it seemed that there was no assistant for me like I had pre-booked. Once we were off the train and stood on the platform, my Mum looked at a person who seemed to be a member of staff, and the lady came over and asked if I needed assistance, I explained that I had in fact pre-booked assistance as I was blind, for her to inform me that she only had two people on my train down for luggage assistance, rather than one with a severe visual impairment. I knew that the information she had told me was wrong as I knew that my passenger assistance details stated that I had a visual impairment and had the right instructions for the member of staff.

We went to the information centre at Manchester Victoria station to find out exactly what had happened. I knew that the assistance had been done right as I was there when the person booked it for me back in February. The man at the information point checked the system and told me that it was in fact all correct, and there had been clearly some mix up in communication. He said that they were short staffed but agreed with me in that this was no excuse. He told me to complain when I returned home the following day.

Despite all of this, I wanted to enjoy the Shawn Mendes concert and the time with my best friend so that’s exactly what we did! A post on the gig will be coming soon – this would have been too long if me and Elin would have just done one post each on the weekend overall!

 

On the Saturday, we left Manchester in the afternoon and me and my mum parted ways with Elin and her Mum and headed off to catch our trains.

Me and my Mum went to the information point again, in order for me to get my assistance. I informed the man at the information desk that I had pre-booked passenger assistance, the man told me that the system was down so would try to see if any assistants were available. Luckily there was, but had I been on my own, this could have been a real issue and so much worse.

When we arrived back at York station, there was no assistance there to come and help me off the train again. We waited for the train to pull out and there was no one there as my Mum and Dad observed this. A couple of minutes later, a woman walked onto the platform so we asked if she was my assistant, and she said yes, but she was waiting for me to “wave a stick or a dog in the air”. How can I wave a cane in the air when I don’t know where a person is, or if there’s anyone there waiting for me? Had I have been on my own, I’d have had to struggle to get off the train by myself along with my luggage, or even worse, ended up in Newcastle which is a long way from where I needed to be.

I wrote to the train company, First Transpenine Express who informed me that they couldn’t deal with this issue as they do not manage Manchester Victoria station so have passed it onto Northern Rail who would be in touch with me. And guess what? I haven’t heard from Northern Rail yet, despite trying to contact them several times myself.

So clearly, there’s a failing in the system somewhere.

I find it appalling that train companies and members of staff do not communicate, misread information, leave disabled passengers on trains and ignore complaints. Like I said, this is one of many incidents that I’ve had when using passenger assistance and it really isn’t fair.

Sadly, I’m not on my own when experiencing these issues, most or if not all of my blind or visually impaired friends have had the same experiences across the country. Make sure you check out Elin’s post as she gives you an account on her experience of passenger assistance and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I’ve wrote this post to highlight some of the issues and struggles that people like myself face when wanting to do something simple like travelling independently on public transport. Just because we have a visual impairment, or other disability it should not be incredibly hard and cause endless frustrations for us. We claim to live in a (fairly) equal society but is this really the case when such problems arise and are a regular occurrence?

I know that here in the UK, we are extremely lucky to have services in place such as passenger assistance and I am extremely grateful for this service but it does not make it right when such systems fail.

I believe that disabled people should have the same rights to travel on trains independently like non-disabled people, but the reality of this is that I feel that this is not the case at all. This is becoming a regular occurrence for me and many others and I do not feel that this should be the case at all.

It is frustrating, and very exhausting for me and my parents to have to keep contacting train companies because of continuous failings, lack of communication or assistance.

I know that writing this blog post will not change the policies and procedures that are put in place, but I hope it highlights some of the issues that disabled people face.

I want to be like my sighted friends and family and travel independently but how can I trust such services when they keep letting me down?

I’m sorry if this was a bit of a rant but I really hope it has helped raise awareness.

I’d really appreciate it if you could share this post so that we can at least try to make a difference!

If you are a disabled person and have had similar experiences then feel free to leave them in the comments.

I’m sorry if this post has offended any of you – that was never my intention.

As always, thank you for reading, I’ll be back soon with another post!

Holly x

Guest blogger opportunity

I would love to have some guest posts featured on my blog. Here on Life Of a Blind Girl, I am wanting to spread awareness of all types of disabilities. One of the aims of my blog is to educate others that maybe don’t know as much on what it’s like to be a disabled person, the challenges we face and how we approach life even though we are disabled. I know that my blog may not change people’s perceptions on disabled people but I do hope it can raise awareness and make them think that we are in fact normal people if they look beyond our disability.

If you have a disability yourself, have a child with a disability, are a professional working with disabled people or know someone that might be interested then please get in touch!

You can cover a specific topic relating to disability such as mobility, accessibility, assistive technology, education or employment if you like. Or if that’s something that doesn’t interest you and you’d like to take a more personal approach, you can write a post about yourself and your disability then that is fine as well. As long as the post helps raise awareness of disability, I really do not mind what you write about. You never know, it may help others in the same situation or facing similar struggles.

 

If you’d like to write a guest post for my blog and this sounds like something you’d be interested in, then please comment on this post or contact me.

Feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested as well.

I am happy to post about any disability, not just visual impairment.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Together we can make others realise that disabilities do not define us and that we can live a life without limits!

Holly x